News broke yesterday (February) that Rep. Andy Harris, in his position as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and The Environment, had the award winning documentary crew responsible for ‘Gasland’ arrested to keep them from filming a hearing on the environmental effects of gas procurement practices.
This was a stunning break from congressional tradition. Congress rarely interferes with highly regarded journalists and filmmakers regardless of whether or not they have proper credentials. The arrest occurred over the objections of Democrats on the committee and after Harris’s office refused to return the calls of the documentary crew, which had sought proper credentials to film the hearing. The footage likely would have been used in a follow up to Josh Fox’s ‘Gasland.’
This action broke every standing tradition of the House of Representatives which, in most cases, takes extra care to avoid trampling on the constitutional rights of the press. This of course begs a couple of questions; most important of which is what did Andy Harris feel the need to hide?
When asked about the arrest during a campaign dinner Wendy Rosen had this to say; “This was not a permit issue, this was a first amendment issue. Andy Harris has once again shown that he did not seek public office to represent his constituents, but rather to represent the extreme fringe of the Tea Party movement, lobbyists, and corporate interests. This was not just a break with the traditions of Congress; it was a failure of both judgment and common sense. Andy Harris failed in his obligation as a Congressman to uphold the Constitution.”